Comparing the fireworks to the bombs.

Why some newsletters work and others don’t . . .

 Recently, we had a client tell us that “our newsletters just don’t raise enough money to make them worthwhile.”  Interesting observation.  But generalizations always make me wonder. 

Then, my Creative Director asked me to do an exercise he loves almost as much as snorkeling on Kauai.  He laid six newsletters down on the table side-by-side with results.  Two did very well.  Four, not so well.  But why?     

The best-performing newsletter got an 11.18% response, about twice what the typical “successful” newsletter gets.  The second best got over a 6% response, still very respectable.  The “losers” were in the 2-4% range of response. 

One obvious advantage for the two winners was that they were mailed at the end of October and November in 2009, during prime fundraising season.  The others dropped in February, April, May and August.  These months can be more challenging. 

But after a few minutes of perusal, it became obvious that seasonality wasn’t the only difference.  The offer, probably the most important component of any fundraising project, was consistent across all four “losers.”  We were asking for $35 to provide a day of food and care.  The two winners established a time-dependent need — “$XXX,XXX is needed by Thanksgiving” and ”$XX,XXX is needed by the end of the year.”  While the number was much bigger than the $35, there was urgency and specificity in the offer which the “loser” lacked. 

Photos in the winning newsletters featured children.  Headlines clearly spelled out the need.  The cover letters for the winning newsletters boldly featured the offer.  And the most successful “winner” featured an involvement device so donors could have a personal touch with those they were helping as well as writing a check.

In direct marketing, winners and losers, fireworks and bombs, share a lot of the same components.  But one lights up the sky with delight — the other causes shock waves, lots of smoke and regret. 

Take some time to look at your winners and losers.  Learn something useful for 2011. 

Brian Fredrickson

Senior Account Executive